We decided to start our blog with our most recent trip, not only because the memories are still fresh but also because it was a magical location that we'd be happy to share with you (certainly on the top 3 of our trips together).
Since Thomas is currently living in Frankfurt, we were looking for a nice location for a small winter getaway which we could possibly combine with a skiing day, since I am a bit of a snow lover (which does not necessarily mean I am a good skier). Therefore, the options available for us were either going to Bavaria or Swiss. For money constraints, we decided to go to Bavaria which is a region on the southeast part of Germany, near the Austrian border and its Tyrol region, a beautiful part of the Alps.
We had gone in an earlier trip to the northern part of Bavaria (you can check here), but we did not have enough time to go all the way to the south where there lies one of the jewels of Germany: the Neuschwanstein Castle. So, we reckoned this was the right time to do it and booked our trip.
2. THE CASTLES
6. EATING THERE
FÜSSEN - AN ATTRACTIVE BAVARIAN CITY
As we wanted to avoid spending a lot, we decided not to rent a car this time and going there by bus. Our destination was Füssen, the nearby colorful medieval city, which later on proved to be a very good decision since by staying in a hotel/hostel in this city, you are entitled to a Füssen card which allows you to take buses and several trains throughout the region for free and also gives some discounts to the main attractions nearby.
After a 6-hour trip on Thursday morning, we arrived in Füssen and were already mesmerized by the beautiful combination of medieval architecture of the old-town and the snowy mountains serving as background. Füssen is the final destination of the German Romantic Road which comes down from Wurzburg.
While waiting for the check-in hour of our hostel, we had a small walk around the town and went to the information center (for more information check here). The people there were extremely helpful explaining the bus lines and the attractions as well as all the benefits from having a Füssen card (which by the way has to be activated in the information center after you receive it from your hotel/hostel so no excuse not to go there).
We were looking forward to see the castle (even from afar), but unfortunately the view from Füssen is not possible since a hill gets in the way of admiring this beauty. Therefore, beholding the Neuschwanstein had to wait for the next day. In the meantime, we still had time to enjoy strolling around the amazing and colorful streets of Füssen.
THE CASTLES - WONDERS OF THE BAVARIAN ALPS REGION
We woke up early the next day (Friday) since we had booked our visit online for the Neuschwanstein for 1 p.m (yes, you must choose a time and you cannot enter the facilities before or even after it). Once booked online, they require you to pick up the tickets at the Tickets Center until one hour and a half before. And besides, we also wanted to walk around the forest and take some nice photos of the castle from the outside before getting in. There are plenty of bus lines (the main ones being 73 and 78) that take you from Füssen bus and train station to the castles. Yes, castles. There are two! The most famous one being Neuschwanstein and the oldest one being Hohenschwangau, the latter was bought and reconstructed by King Maximilian, the father of King Ludwig II - the swan king responsible for building the Neuschwanstein.
For visiting each castle, the price is 13 EUR (reservation fee of 1.80 EUR per ticket when booking online). If you want to visit both, there are some packages available (25 EUR). Apparently, during summer, the number of visitors is very high and reserving online is highly recommended. It can be done up to 2 days before your desired visit to the castle. However, as we visited it on a Friday during winter, we thought maybe it was not that necessary to book online.
HOW TO GET TO THE NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE?
It was finally time to head up to our destiny: the castle! You can go up to the castle by 3 different ways (check here for availability):
- Walking up : for free, if you come by car, the parking costs 6 EUR for the whole day;
- By shuttle bus : 1.80 EUR per person for the way up and 1 EUR for the way down. Round-trip is 2.60 EUR and you may pay either at the cashier which is located at the bus station or directly to the bus driver. (Attention 1 : The bus does not go directly to Neuschwanstein castle but leaves you on a path of 15 minutes to it. Attention 2 : on the day we went, the bus was out of service allegedly due to weather conditions.);
- By horse carriage : 6 EUR per person for the way up and 3 EUR for the way down.
We'd strongly recommend you - especially if you like trekking and have time to do so before the schedule time of your visit - to go up by walk. But don’t make the same mistake as we did...
A NICE WALK ITINERARY TO REACH THE NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
1. First stop: the Alpsee Lake
With your tickets in hand, you can start exploring the surroundings before heading up. Walk down the road to the Alpsee lake which is surrounded by mountains and offers an astounding view. On the way to go to the Alpsee Lake, you can also see the Hohenschwangau castle.
2. Second stop: the Marienbrücke bridge
To reach the Marienbrücke bridge, don't follow the main road (Neuschwansteinstraße - which is a 1.5 km street on a steep uphill road) but rather go through one of the trails throughout the forest to have one of the most stunning views of the castle.
Nonetheless, if you are a bit lazy to walk all the way up, you can still catch the bus up (if it's not out of service), which will drop you nearby the Marienbrücke bridge. This bridge offers the most iconic and beautiful view of the castle.
Unfortunately, the bridge may be closed. However, some trails offer a similar view, though you'll need to get out of the main trail and be very careful due to the cliffs which can be dangerous. When the bridge is open, it is possible to cross it and if you continue the trail up to Tegelberg (the ski mountain nearby), some mesmerizing panoramic views will be offered to you.
3. Take the trail and stop to take photos of the Hohenschwangau Castle
After this, take the trail to the castle and stop by at the turn which provides a breathtaking view of the Hohenschwangau Castle and the mountains on the background. If you go during winter, this trail might be closed to access from the castle since it gets slippery when the snow melts in the morning and refreezes at night, turning to ice and making the descending part very adventurous (we literally went all the way down grabbing ourselves in the handrail).
As the access to the bridge was closed, at the end of the trail up to the castle we faced a closed gate, meaning we would have to go back to the main path and then go up again. We are not glad to admit it but, as we were lazy to do it, we jumped over the gate which we would not advise you to do and, if you do, we are not responsible for the consequences hehe!
4. Stop at the skywalk to check the front of the Neuschwanstein Castle
Before heading in to the castle, stop at the skywalk to observe the front of the castle. Unfortunately, when we went there, they were doing some maintenance on the facade of the entrance, but they forecast to finish the renovation works for mid-2018, so if you are able to go there after this period, your photos will be nicer than the ones we have.
5. Guided tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle
Finally, after all the walking and taking photos, we got through the gates to start the guided tour of the castle. It is necessary to enter at the exact time written in your ticket, which you have to scan at a machine. It is not possible to advance or postpone your visit, so pay attention to the time of your visit! Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photos inside the castle, but if you're really curious, you can get a virtual tour here!
The visit is made in groups with a guide giving some info along the way through audio guides. In the beginning the guide gives general information about King Ludwig II, a nostalgic monarch who, unsatisfied and uninterested with the current political situation of his realm, preferred to focus on his artistic endeavors for celebrating ancient royalty lines and medieval knights’ legends by building a fantasy world around him in which, little did he know, he would only spent few days.
We were really impressed with how they were able to build such a big castle on top of a mountain during the second half of the XIX century, and plus equipped with modern technology for that time. When you see all this modern technology inside the castle, you notice that King Ludwig was really dedicated to his new castle: sink with a faucet, automatic flushing system in the toilets, hot air central heating in all the rooms, a telephone line and electric bell system to call the servants; what a modern castle at the time!
Our highlights of the whole visit would be: the throne room which occupies two floors with a big cupola and chandelier; the bedroom of the King featuring a washstand with a fountain of spring water; and the unusual grotto and winter garden which was built with carton as an artificial drip-stone cave (with a waterfall) which leads to a glassed room with an uninterrupted view of the Alpine foothills.
At the end of the tour, after the gift shop, there is a multimedia room broadcasting a short movie which explains how the castle was built (from the inspiration until the parts that were planned but not completed after the death of King Ludwig II). The movie starts every quarter and last around 13 minutes, it helps to understand the architectural and engineering process of the construction of this famous building. If you have some time, we advise you to watch it!
It is worth mentioning that we were not completely satisfied with the visit model of the Neuschwanstein. While it is nice going on a guided tour, as there are a lot of groups scheduled, the visits are rushed to go from one room to another. There is not much time to enjoy and sinking in all the details and beauty of all the rooms. One may say they just want to make money out of the castle more than sharing this cultural heritage with people.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS TO SEE IN THE SURROUNDINGS
When we travel during winter, in order to enjoy the most out of the shorter days, we usually make some sandwiches or buy some snacks at the supermarket, so we do not to have to stop for lunch, losing some valuable hours of sunlight. These precious hours allowed us to do some more sightseeing after visiting the castle. Indeed, there are some options of what to do after visiting the castles, all of them depending on how much time you’ve got and how much you are willing to walk. We did not do all of this on the same day, but we will highlight them as options, so you can choose what you feel more like doing:
TEGELBERG - THE SKI STATION NEARBY FÜSSEN
Getting out of the visit, we went down the main trail back to the bus stop (while attacking some sandwiches) to get the bus 78 heading to Tegelberg, the ski station nearby with a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain. We were planning on skiing there on the following day but as there was not a lot of snow, we looked for another option (check our post here about a ski day in Austria). Nevertheless, we wanted to check it anyway since it offers a different view of the Neuschwanstein castle. If you have time (we had an hour until the next bus arrived), there are some trails running on the bottom of the mountains offering a nice promenade.
After catching the next bus, we got off at Schwangau Rathaus (Townhall of Schwangau) and walked up Schloßstraße until the bus stop near the castles which took us around 20 minutes but offered different perspectives of the Neuschwanstein castle and the mountains around. Then we took the next bus back to the city center of Füssen.
FÜSSEN - THE WATERFALL LECHFALL AND THE CASTLE
We actually visited the Lechfall waterfall on our way back from Austria the following day (check our post about it here), but you can do it after your visit to the castle. You just need to catch the bus to go back to Füssen main bus and train station (1). From there, you can follow the path passing by the main street of Füssen (2), the old town hall (3), the medieval castle (4), the Monastery (5), the Leechfall Waterfall (6) and returning to the Marktalle (7).
Though not comparable to the castles in Schwangau, the Hohes Schloss Füssen castle dominates the townscape. It was built centuries before the others, which explains its different architecture style and there are even evidences of roman fortifications from the XII century.
Heading on to the Lechfall, you'll encounter an impressive gorge carved by the power of the enchanting greenish blue water coming down from the Alps in the Lech river. This river provided Füssen with a strategical position for using it first as a merchandise route to the Danube river and afterwards as a power generator for its industries. The Lechfall consists of a dam ladder with 5 stages built in the XVIII century that leads into a narrow and curvy gorge that flows into the Forggensee Lake.
FORGGENSEE - THE BEAUTIFUL LAKE
As we had to leave on a Sunday afternoon, we woke up early to be able to visit the big lake nearby, the Forggensee Lake. You can go by walk to the Musiktheater Füssen which is 30 minutes away from the information center or take the bus 56 and get off at the Festspielhaus stop. Though the weather was very cloudy and our pictures would have been better with a blue sky, we reckon that it provided us a nice panoramic view of the mountains and the castle.
There are some boat trips through the lake, bike tours and hike trails (available in brochures to download here) which seem very good options for when visiting Füssen in summer. We would definitely consider doing these activities as one of our next adventures...
DETAILS OF THE TRIP
- Closest airport: Munich;
- From Munich:
- By bus: 4 hours and around 15 EUR one way.
- By train: 2 hours and around 22 EUR one way. You can also get a Bavarian Regional Card which allows you to travel by train in Bavaria as much as you want for a whole day for 25 EUR for the first passenger and only 3 EUR per additional passenger (check the website for more information);
- Accommodation in Füssen is quite expensive since there is not a lot of hostels. We thought we could stay in Schwangau (as the prices seemed cheaper and the castles closer), however, we do not advise you to stay there since Schwangau does not have the same structure or charm as Füssen;
- Old Kings Hostel: we stayed 3 nights in a (tiny) double room for 150 EUR (or 50 EUR per night for two). It is a neat and well decorated hostel with friendly staff. Very-well located in one of the cute streets of the old-town and only 10 minutes from the main bus station. The only downsides are that there is no kitchen available for cooking and that there is only one toilet and two showers for each female and male bathrooms.
- We were surprised by the huge amount and variety of restaurants Füssen has to offer. From German traditional cuisine to Asian food, there are plenty different addresses to check;
- Ritter-stub'n: a German traditional restaurant. The dishes were really good and the portions incredible, we highly recommend this place!
- Pizza Pasta Americano: a nice (and pretty cheap) pizza place (around 6-7 EUR for one medium pizza), the pizzas were delicious and very tasteful!
*All prices are referred to January 2018
And now it's your turn to let us know your impressions, thoughts and also tips to visit this region of Germany. Have you already been to Füssen and did you have the chance to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle? Which other attractions would you recommend? We look forward reading your comments in the section below.